Master of Arts (MA)


Terri Cornwell

Primary Subject Area

Mass Communications; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies


This study supplements the scarcity of research on Korean women in America. It explores the perception of leadership between Korean American women and Korean international women. It was inspired by stories that were told by Korean women indicating that Korean women in America first and foremost deal with the question, "Who am I?" An additional question for this thesis was, "Who am I as a leader?" The majority answer found for Korean American women was: "I consider myself as a Korean American, although deep down I always know I am Korean." Korean international women without a doubt regard themselves as Korean or a Korean from a third culture.

LaFromboise's second culture acquisition model is mentioned to better explain the current situation of Korean women's identities in America. The five major models are: assimilation, acculturation, multiculturism, alternation. The Multicultural Model was fusion, chosen and to specifically explain the identity of Korean women in America.

Data was collected from observations, surveys, semistructured interviews and demographic questionnaires. One hundred-twenty Korean women in America responded to the study. Findings indicate that Korean American women reveal more independence and assertiveness than Korean international women. Korean American women exceed in holding leadership positions in the community, church, school and workplace over Korean international women. However, despite such findings, it reveals that adherence to Confucian principles still exists within the lives of both Korean American and Korean international women.

In short, Korean women in America, ages 19 - 40, share a different perception of leadership; however, both are embedded in Confucian ideology and both groups struggle with cultural boundaries. Cultural expectations still dominate Korean society in America and continue to shape the lives of many women in extensive ways. Several implications for future research, limitations, and significance are also discussed.